This is a great question and there is a lot of confusion about this. So let’s go over some of the transportation agencies that affect San Jose and District 1.
The most well-known agencies are the USDOT, Caltrans, CTC, MTC, ABAG, VTA, CMA, County Roads & Airports, City of San Jose – Dept. of Transportation or Public Works- (don’t worry I will explain all the acronyms below!) and the neighboring cities’ DOT that fund, control, operate, improve or maintain the roads, bridges, railways, waterways, signals, and all modes of transportation in and around our city and district.
USDOT – United States Department of Transportation (Budget of $84 billion for 2015) oversees FAA (Aviation), FHWA (Roadways and Bridges), FTA (Public Transit) and several other organizations. FHWA controls and owns the Interstate highways (e.g. I-5 from San Diego, CA to Blaine, WA; or I-80 from San Francisco, CA to Teaneck, NJ). They contract with the states that their interstate highways traverse for maintenance, repair and upgrades but they have the final say (veto power) on everything.
Caltrans – California Department of Transportation defines its mission as providing a safe, sustainable, integrated and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability. Caltrans manages more than 50,000 miles of California’s highway and freeway lanes, provides inter-city rail services, permits more than 400 public-use airports and special-use hospital heliports, and works with local agencies. Caltrans carries out its mission of improving mobility across California with six primary programs: Aeronautics, Highway Transportation, Mass Transportation, Transportation Planning, Administration and the Equipment Service Center. It has over 23,000 employees and over $10.9 Billion in Budget. In San Jose District 1, it manages freeways 280, 85, 17, 880 as well as an extension of highway 9. It receives its funding from the CTC.
CTC – The California Transportation Commission allocates the funds (that USDOT has appropriated to it and the funds received from State programs) to its regional agencies/commissions. In the Bay Area, the regional agency is the MTC which covers the 9 Bay Area counties.
MTC – Metropolitan Transportation Commission is responsible for adopting budgets and project costs as well as general policy direction. MTC will allocate the funds (that was appropriated to it from CTC) to the 9 Bay Area counties. Those counties are Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma. In Santa Clara County, VTA receives the funding from MTC.
ABAG – The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is a regional planning agency incorporating various local governments in the Bay Area. Although not a true transportation agency, it deals with land use, housing, environmental quality, and economic development, which deals directly or indirectly with the transportation agencies. Non-profit organizations as well as governmental organizations can be members. All nine counties and 101 cities within the Bay Area are voluntary members of ABAG. As an advisory organization, ABAG has limited statutory authority. It is governed by its General Assembly, which consists of an elected official (delegate) from each city and county which is a member of the organization. The General Assembly determines policy, adopts the annual budget and work program, and reviews policy actions taken or proposed by the organization’s Executive Board. A majority of city and county votes are required for action. This is the organization that dictates the number of “NEW” housing units each City or County has to provide in its General Plan. It allocates funds to study and plan where new units will be planned.
VTA – Valley Transportation Agency oversees both the mass-transit a.k.a. transit (rail and buses) as well as transportation modes of travel within Santa Clara County. It also acts as the CMA for the County. VTA receives funds from MTC and uses those funds to manage projects that the citizens have voted for in the County for example BART to San Jose. They also work closely with Caltrans and other agencies (like City of San Jose) to perform studies, prepare plans for improvements and oversee the construction of the projects. They oversee the lights rail and bus operation in the County. There are 18 directors of the VTA (of whom 6 are alternates) and 12 are voting members. They are all elected officials that have been appointed by mayors of the 15 cities and the County Board of Supervisors. For a list see here.
CMA – Congestion Management Agency develops and adopts the update to the Congestion Management Program (CMP) every two years. The next update is coming in October of 2015. The goal of this agency is to reduce congestion. One of the ways is to find alternative modes of transportation to the single occupant automobile as well as trip reduction programs, land use / transportation integration strategies. VTA acts as the Congestion Management Agency for Santa Clara County.
County Roads and Airports – This arm of the Santa Clara County government, oversees the County expressways, roadways and small airports. The expressways in District 1 are the G2 (Lawrence) Expressway and the G4 (San Tomas) Expressways. This agency controls the signs and traffic signals that control the network of roads in our county. The roads are listed in the following manual.
SJDOT – City of San Jose Department of Transportation is responsible for the vast majority of the roads in District 1. Basically, any public road that is not in the purview of Caltrans or the County Roads and Airports is owned by City of San Jose and is controlled by the SJDOT. This includes the signs and signals that control the flow of traffic. San Jose also owns and controls the flow of air traffic in and around the San Jose International Airport (SJC).
Neighboring cities – City of Campbell, Cupertino, Santa Clara and Saratoga share borders with San Jose District 1. They share the responsibility for the road maintenance of the “Common” roads. For example Cupertino controls one half of Bollinger Road and San Jose the other half. However, only one agency controls the traffic signals on that road.
As you can see, the delineation of where one agency’s responsibility end and the other one begins are not always clear. Sometimes getting the agencies to agree among each other is difficult too. But in the end, they all have the same goals of providing safe, reliable and practical transportation or transit service to the people.